“Two Men Arrive in a Village,” by Zadie Smith .pdf

“Two Men Arrive in a Village,” by Zadie Smith .pdf -...

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Fiction June 6 & 13, 2016 Issue Two Men Arrive in a Village By Zadie Smith
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Photograph by Richard Mosse
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S Audio: Zadie Smith reads. ometimes on horseback, sometimes by foot, in a car or astride motorbikes, occasionally in a tank having strayed far from the main phalanx and every now and then from above, in helicopters. But if we look at the largest possible picture, the longest view, we must admit that it is by foot that they have mostly come, and so in this sense, at least, our example is representative; in fact, it has the perfection of parable. Two men arrive in a village by foot, and always a village, never a town. If two men arrive in a town they will obviously arrive with more men, and far more in the way of supplies that s simple common sense. But when two men arrive in a village their only tools may be their own dark or light hands, depending, though most often they will have in these hands a blade of some kind, a spear, a long sword, a dagger, a flick-knife, a machete, or just a couple of rusty old razors. Sometimes a gun. It has depended, and continues to depend. What we can say with surety is that when these two men arrived in the village we spotted them at once, at the horizon point where the long road that leads to the next village meets the setting sun. And we understood what they meant by coming at this time. Sunset has, historically, been a good time for the two men, wherever they have arrived, for at sunset we are all still together: the women are only just back from the desert, or the farms, or the city o ces, or the icy mountains, the children are playing in dust near the chickens or in the communal garden outside the towering apartment block, the boys are lying in the shade of cashew trees, seeking relief from the terrible heat if they are not in a far colder country, tagging the underside of a railway bridge and, most important, perhaps, the teen-age girls are out in front of their huts or houses, wearing their jeans or their saris or their veils or their Lycra miniskirts, cleaning or preparing food or grinding meat or texting on their phones. Depending. And the able-bodied men are not yet back from wherever they have been. Night, too, has its advantages, and no one can deny that the two men have arrived in the middle of the night on horseback, or barefoot, or clinging to each other on a
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I Suzuki scooter, or riding atop a commandeered government jeep, therefore taking advantage of the element of surprise. But darkness also has its disadvantages, and because the two men always arrive in villages and never in towns, if they come by night they are almost always met with absolute darkness, no matter where in the world or their long history you may come across them. And in such darkness you cannot be exactly sure whose ankle it is you have hold of: a crone, a wife, or a girl in the first flush of youth.
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